Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#35 / Wayback

Pictured is the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, located in Alexandria, Egypt. In my view, this is one of the most wonderful libraries in the world. Click the link to access its website. If you do, you will learn that the library is "open Sunday through Thursday, from 11:00AM to 7:00PM, and on Saturday, from 12:00PM to 4:00PM. Fridays are off."

I mention the library's hours just in case you'd like to drop by.

I personally visited the library in Alexandria back in 2010, and I was very much impressed. One of the things that impressed me most was the library's claim that it would act as a repository for postings to the world wide web, preserving them and making them a resource available throughout the world. The library is planning to accomplish this through its International School of Information Science, and by its efforts to help maintain an Internet Archive.

Jill Lepore, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor of history at Harvard University, has just published a piece in The New Yorker titled "The Cobweb," discussing various efforts being made to archive the Internet. It turns out there is another library that is playing a central role in what I heard about first at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and that library is a lot closer to home. It is in San Francisco. The Internet Archive I first heard about in Alexandria is physically located at 300 Funston Avenue, in San Francisco, in a Greek Revival Temple that formerly housed a Christian Science Church.

The Founder of the Internet Archive is Brewster Kahle, and he is also the inventor of the "Wayback Machine." Click the link to see what that's all about. The Wayback Machine adds a time dimension to your internet search, so you can look at a URL not only as it appears now, but as it appeared in earlier incarnations. 

Lepore says that the Wayback Machine is aiming to make the past "inescapable," and that this is "as terrifying as it is interesting." 

An "inescapable" past might well be terrifying, particularly if such an immediate access to proof of the past ended up convincing us that the past delimits our future. Within the human world, all deterministic claims that the past inevitably rules the future are at odds with the truth, even though such deterministic claims may not be enforced by third parties, but are simply the lies we tell ourselves.

The more we believe that the past constrains us, eliminating the essential freedom that is both our glory and our burden, the less we will be able to follow Mr. Dylan's good advice: Strike Another Match. Go Start Anew.

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1 comment:

  1. Did you know any web master can easily and retroactively remove their entire domain from the Wayback Machine?


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